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Forest Service recruiting new advisory committee

Nominations are being accepted through mid-January for members to a Federal Advisory Committee for national forests in the Northwest Forest Plan area of Northern California, Oregon, and Washington

The Northwest Forest Plan amended forest management for 19 national forests administered by the U.S. Forest Service, covering 19.4 million acres in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, along with seven Bureau of Land Management (BLM) districts covering 2.7 million acres in Western Oregon and Northern California. Since 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan has remained essentially unchanged with respect to the 19 national forests.

The plan was adopted after several years of litigation over the effects of timber harvesting on native wildlife. It divides federal lands into several different management categories and provides management direction for each category through a set of Standards and Guidelines. In addition to Congressionally reserved areas and administratively withdrawn lands, the plan’s main management categories are:

* Late successional reserves and managed late successional areas (7.5 million acres) – large blocks of forest land managed to protect and restore * Riparian reserves (2.6 million acres located in the matrix) – wide bands of forest along rivers, streams, and landslide-prone areas managed to protect water quality, fish habitat, and aquatic ecosystems.

* Adaptive management areas (1.5 million acres) – 10 areas around the region with specific local direction in which more management flexibility is provided to encourage testing of innovative approaches to forest management.

* Matrix (4 million acres) – all remaining federal forest lands, where commercial logging is generally permitted.

The plan also established a four-part Aquatic Conservation Strategy, consisting of riparian reserves (see above), a large network of key watersheds, watershed analysis requirements, and watershed restoration. Restoration work was to focus on reducing erosion from old logging roads and restoring riparian vegetation and in-stream habitat complexity based on a scientific assessment of needs and risks to aquatic function.

“The Northwest Forest Plan was the world’s first ecosystem management plan, and while many elements have withstood the test of time, a warming climate compels a science-based update so it can achieve its conservation objectives,” said Susan Jane Brown, senior attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center. “WELC and our partners have relied on the Northwest Forest Plan since its inception to deliver clean drinking water to communities, provide recreational opportunities for the region, and to ensure the viability of iconic wildlife. Today, we need a contemporary plan that is adapted to rapidly changing environmental conditions driven by climate change. An updated plan should reflect the Biden administration’s priorities: protecting mature and old-growth forests, preserving biodiversity, and restoring forests for wildfire resilience. We look forward to the opportunity to ensure those outcomes.”

The Forest Service’s announcement calls for nominations for a 20-member federal advisory committee that will provide formal recommendations to the agency regarding updating the Northwest Forest Plan. Nine members will represent the scientific community, seven members will represent nongovernmental organizations, and four members will represent governmental and public at-large interests. Applications must be received by the Forest Service by January 17th, 2023. Appointments to the advisory committee will be made by the Secretary of Agriculture. Information on the application process is available at the announcement link.


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